By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A tragedy in South Africa hits home right here in Maryland.

A 35-year-old Baltimore native and her 3-year-old son were attacked by a giraffe and are now fighting for their lives.

Katy Williams from Baltimore has many more operations to go, but her father said she’s now communicating through sign language.

Her 3-year-old boy remains in a coma and doctors don’t what his final outcome will be.

It was last Monday when Williams, a scientist and Baltimore native, was at the wildlife reserve in South Africa, close to where she lives.

Officials said the mother and son were viciously attacked, as the giraffe mistook the two as a threat – trying to protect her young calf.

Williams’ husband returned from a run in the middle of it all to chase the animal away.

The result, both the mother and child were left with severe injuries in a coma and with possible brain damage.

“When they feel threatened they will do whatever they need to protect their giraffes,” said Sydney Larsen, giraffe house area manager with the Maryland Zoo.

Larsen works with giraffes at the Maryland Zoo and says female giraffes can weigh anywhere from 1200-1600 pounds, while male giraffes weigh around 2100 pounds. Larsen says a calf around 2-years-old could be 900 pounds.

“They certainly are built to protect themselves in the wild, their largest predator would be a lion, they have a force that is incapable of killing the said lion,” Larsen said.

Despite Williams’ experience of living and working in Africa and around animals for years, officials believe the unusual attack could only be explained as an act of nature.

“It is simply their natural behaviors they’re just responding to natural stimuli and other factors in the environment that you’re just not aware of,” Larsen said.

3-year-old Finn underwent emergency brain damage and doctors are hoping it is not permanent.

Williams’ father said both of them have a long way to go and many more operations to endure.

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